Peter reports to the church in Jerusalem because certain Jewish leaders were critical of his association with Gentiles in Caesarea. Some of them accused him of associating and eating with Gentiles which was a traditional addition to God’s law. These men were called the “circumcision”. Their accusation was correct but unjustified. This tells us that many in the New Testament church were zealous converted Jews who kept the law but were ignorant of the fact that ceremonies were passing and the church was becoming catholic or universal (see also Acts 15:24 where the same thing is repeated and 21:21-25 where Paul makes a small concession to them).
Peter logically recounted in detail the events in Joppa and Caesarea to show God’s providential hand in them. He gives three arguments that Gentiles are to be included in the church:
- The Holy Spirit was poured out on them
- Christ said his disciples would be baptized with the Spirit
- The gift of tongues was seen as proof
The church at Jerusalem had nothing to say because Peter proved that the events were orchestrated by God and should be cause for gladness not criticism and that Gentiles as well as Jews were granted repentance and eternal life.
Luke recalls that after Stephen died great persecution broke out and many disciples scattered over the Roman Empire going as far as Crete, Cyprus, Libya and Antioch. These believers, some of whom were preachers, preached to Jews only because of their similar background and language (carrying on the ministry of Christ and the apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel). Grecians were Jews who spoke Greek, who likely came from outside Israel. When the church in Jerusalem heard about conversions outside, they sent Barnabas to assess, as far as Antioch where most were converted. The grace of God (v23) is his power to save (Titus 2:11). Barnabas is described as a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. He went to get Saul from Tarsus because Saul was very knowledgeable in the Scriptures, an apostle and a teacher, who alongside him, taught and established and built up the church making them disciples.
Apparently, the minister of the church in Antioch and possibly outsiders there, nicknamed the disciples “Christians” or Christ-ones. We do not know if this name was an insult or compliment.
There still were extraordinary prophets in the New Testament church because the canon of Scripture was not finally fixed. These men got direct divine revelation and were able to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” Agabus prophesied a famine in Israel which happened sometime between 43 and 46AD. The disciples in Antioch decided to send money to the Jerusalem church because of their unity and care and we need to respond in the same way today.
Next study (DV) August 11th at 8pm Acts 12:1-25